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Ixtabay

Jonathan Ogden

 

El olor de flores flotando tras la selva. Ten miedo la Ixtabay ya viene.

     Fray Diego de Landa’s head jerked, reptilian, following the sound of a mosquito. His eyes narrowed and his hand darted out swiftly to grasp the unfortunate parasite mid-flight. Opening his fingers, he saw the mangled corpse awash with unknown blood. Mildly disgusted, he wiped the blood away, wondering whether it was Spanish, or Mayan.
    Ten years had passed since Diego arrived in the Spanish Territory of Yucatan. In those ten years he had waged a holy war against Mayan identity itself. He found their ancient marvels: pyramids bedecked with ornate pictographic writings telling the story of a thousand year old civilization; domed observatories where the movement of stars and planets were predicted for the next five hundred years. These he found alongside schools, libraries, administrative buildings, and athletic arenas. He tore them down slab by limestone slab and cannibalized their remains to build housing for soldiers, wealthy men’s estates, and churches.
     He collected their writings and burned them. There was weeping for the loss of the ancient marvels but the people shed tears of blood for their writings, for in the holocaust of their codices an entire empire’s knowledge of history, religion, science, philosophy, and art was lost forever.
     The golden era of Mayan civilization had passed before the Spaniards arrived. Centuries before, an unnamed fear drove them from their great cities, which were largely reclaimed by the eternal jungle. The armies that remained broke upon Spanish steel like waves on the shore. Those who would reject the yoke of the conquerors fled to the jungle; for the Spanish could not reach them there, those lands belonged to the gods alone.
     But a man cannot live in the jungle, he can only survive. Some of them were able to scrape a bare survival off of wild game and chaparral fruits, but hunger was their constant companion. Eventually, they would have to return to their cornfields, or starve.
     The thought made Diego smile as he stared absently at the manuscript before him. Yucatan Before and after the Conquest by Bishop Diego de Landa, his life’s work. It was a chronicle of what he had seen of the Mayans and a testament to his fascination and disgust. He described within how the Mayan people savagely mutilated themselves by filing their teeth into points and adorning them with bits of jade and gold, how they strapped boards to their infant’s heads in order to elongate their skulls. Giving them a bizarre and fearsome appearance, how they held secret ceremonies to horrid, decaying gods in dark, wet caves, and their practice of human sacrifice.
     And yet, Diego could not help but admire what they had created: massive pyramids bedecked with geometric art that rivaled that of the orient in its complexity, projects of infrastructure that included leagues of white roads cut through the forest and jungle, and a peerless knowledge of the movement of the heavenly bodies.
The contrast between their barbarism and science, their art and ruthlessness, their beauty and vulgarity, was fascinating to him. Often, Diego would find himself staring at the Mayans fixated by their small stature, ovular faces, and almond shaped eyes.
    One woman in particular worried his attentions: Ixchel. Though only fourteen, she was a beauty. Diego remembered the first time he had seen her. Her beauty was arresting, even as a child. Now, she approached womanhood. The buds of her hips and breasts had bloomed. The large eyes and pouted lips, which in childhood lent her an air of innocence, now made her a siren. Her eyes were her most striking feature. They were deeper and richer verdant than ever was the stone that perched the throat of a queen. They sparkled like emeralds and glowed like jade. It was rumored that they were the parting gift of the soldier who raped her mother. If that was the case, he had long since fled the city, for neither among the natives nor the Europeans were a pair of eyes to be seen as rivaled hers.
     Rubbing his own eyes, Diego picked up his pen. He held it suspended over the page of his manuscript. A drop of ink grew fat at the tip of his quill and dropped onto the parchment. Diego did not notice. He was lost in a memory.
     “Ma’! Ma’! Ma’! Maaaaaa’! Maaaaa’!” The last words of a young warrior screamed out as he pissed himself, Mayan priests held him pinioned against the etched limestone altar, belly upward and bulging tense so that it burst open when another priest plunged his knife into it. Clearly, Diego remembered how the pools of blood had made small rivulets that trickled down the carved image of a ceiba tree whose branches held the heavens and among whose roots were tangled the images of corpses. Forcefully, Diego closed his eyes and tried to shut the memory out. He sighed and put down the quill
    “No more today.” He said aloud. He took a steadying breath and crossed himself. Putting on his robes, he walked outside into the overwhelming heat and walked towards the Cathedral in the town square.
     The cathedral loomed grim and grey over the city like a golem. It was built from the remains of T’ho, the abandoned city that Spanish reclaimed and christened Merida. In spite of its fearsome appearance, the cathedral’s thick walls offered welcome respite from the tropical heat. Perhaps for this reason, Diego arrived to a cathedral packed with people. Moving amongst them and offering perfunctory greetings, he made his way to the confessional.
     His first confessor was a soldier who had slaughtered a child in the revelry of battle. Diego ordered him to perform one thousand rosaries for the life that he took, and to give an ingot of gold to the closest surviving relative.
      A Dutch businessman confessed to trading glass marbles and worthless baubles for rare stones, and spices.
     “Such a sin is easily remedied by giving a portion of the money gained in the sale back to the people you cheated.” Said Diego.
     “Yes Father, but with the proceeds from this journey, I plan to retire. I will not return to this land.” Said the Dutchman.
     “Then give twenty percent of your profit to the Church, thereby you give not only to those you cheated, but to God.” Said Diego.
     “As you say Father.”
      The next confessor entered accompanied by the smell of lilies. Ixchel. Diego glanced through the wooden screen. She had one white flower tucked into her hair, but the smell but the thickness of it seemed to waft from her very skin.
      “Forgive me father, for I have sinned.” She said.
      “All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God, Child. Go on.”
     She bit her lower lip. Her large green eyes watered. “I have had impure thoughts of a man.”
     Fray de Landa breathed slowly and deeply. His vision swam. He could not think clearly. The scent was overpowering. He felt a strong swelling from beneath his robes. “Of course it— Only natural for you to—” He stammered.
     “It is worse, for the object of my desire is a man of God.” Ixchel looked directly through the lattice grille at Diego.
     He took a deep breath and held it, weighing his words. He exhaled slowly. “When my mind is troubled, I find that a walk under the moon clears my head. Perhaps you might find similar solace. There will be a full moon tonight; it should be particularly lovely at the cenote, when the moon reaches its highest point.” He turned to face her; their eyes met and spoke plainly the intimation of their words.
     “Yes Father.” She said, and rose, pulling down her huipilwhere it had bunched over her heart shaped thighs and buttocks.
     Diego listened to the sounds of her footsteps on the stone floor as they faded. The cathedral was empty; outside the sun had begun its descent. Soon, it would be night. He left, his head still spinning.
     He spent the rest of the evening in distraction. After a few hours he saw that the moon approached its apex. “A bit of fresh air would surely clear my mind” he said. He abandoned the thick air of his study and emerged into the bracing freshness of the night, walked towards the cenote.
     Ixchel’s silhouette indented the reflection of the moon on the water. “Hello Father” she said without looking at him.
     “Hello My Child. Do you find the night air agreeable?” said Diego.
     “Yes. You know— I’ve always loved this place. We all love the cenote, do we not? Even you Spaniards. No matter how harsh the sun, it always provides cool, clean water.”
     Fray Diego did not speak, he continued gazing at Ixchel’s backside, watching the breeze play with the edges of her dress and hair as it danced across her skin. She turned to face him.
     “There is a lake even more beautiful than the cenote. When I was a child I played there, swimming in the waters. It is quite beautiful. I can show you, if you like.” She said, smiling in a way that was both innocent and sultry.
    “I would like to see such a place.” Said Diego.
     “Then I will take you.” She said, and he allowed her to grasp his hand and lead him deeper into the jungle away from the light.
     “Where are we going?” Asked Diego.
     “The underworld has many entrances, all of them connected. Our ancestors navigated from here all the way to the great city of Chichen Itza, without ever hearing birdsong. The cenote is the entrance that leads directly to the watery halls of— how do you say— kiimil?”
     “Death.” Answered Diego, shivering as he spoke the word.
     “Yes— Death— To his watery halls we send emissaries in times of peril. But, those who see Death cannot leave the Underworld. So we must enter through the cave.”
     A deep sorrow echoed in Diego’s heart, suddenly his eyes brimmed with tears but he did not know why.
     “I’m lost in the woods, Ixchel. Once, I saw clearly the path before me, but now I know not how to move forward or back.” He said.
     Ixchel stopped and smiled at him. Seeing a tear, she reached up and wiped it away. “You were lost when you came. Now, you have found the path that will lead you from despair. First, we pass through the darkness. Do not be afraid Diego, I’m with you.” She said.
     They came to a towering ceiba. Its trunk was a soft, green color. It was swollen in the middle, giving it the appearance of a woman, with child. Its base was a mass of gnarled roots that almost looked like the hair upon the pubis.
     “Here.” Said Ixchel.
     “Here? There is nothing but the tree.” Said Diego.
     The cave is death. The ceiba is life. They are connected.” Said Ixchel, simply. She led him to the base. There was a dark crack just big enough for one person to squeeze through. Ixchel disappeared into the darkness, pulling Diego’s hand. But he resisted.
     In fear, he jerked his hand away. A moment passed, and Ixchel reemerged. “Don’t be afraid, Diego, I’m with you. Take my hand.” She held out her hand, soft and warm. Diego looked at it, noticing the way the brown skin the color of coffee faded into a softer beige at the palm. He reached out and touched the tips of her fingers with his own. She pulled gently at his fingertips until he leaned forward, allowing her to intertwine her fingers with his. Once again, she disappeared into the darkness, and this time he allowed himself to be pulled after.
     He had to stoop once inside. Ixchel’s body pressed against him. She laughed softly, and her sweet breath tickled his ear. “The last time I was here, I could stand up straight. It’s been too long. Look, there is the entrance to the cave.” Diego looked where she indicated and saw a hole between two large rocks, cleft by the roots of the ceiba in its search for water. Ixchel lowered herself until she sat. Then she eased her hips in and slowly dropped down, disappearing into the bowels of the earth. The last thing that Diego saw was her laughing face, before she disappeared entirely. His heart pounding, he followed.
     He felt rocky floor about a meter below. He placed his feet and slid into next chamber easily. It was pitch black. “Ixchel? Where are you?” He called.
     “Here I am Diego.” He could hear her smile without seeing it. He moved towards her, hands outstretched, one landed on her breast and another on the curve of her hipbone. His hands lingered. Laughing, she pulled them away, taking them in her own. “Diego!” she said, “You must stay very close to me. There are many false passages that lead into unknown depths. Men have been lost here before. The fortunate ones are taken into the service of Kiimil. He gives them eyes that see in the dark, and reduces their form so that they might better move through his halls. These ones we call the Alux.”
     “And— The unfortunate ones?”
     Ixchel hesitated, “Those lost in the underworld, deemed unworthy to join the services of the death god, wander forever in the blackness, their bellies swollen with hunger.”
     Diego shuddered, and reached out, holding to the fabric of Ixchel’s huipil like child would to its mother.
     He tried to memorize the many twists and turns that they took in the dark, but it was hopeless. Suddenly, they heard a noise. Diego’s fists clenched.
     “What was that?” He said.
     “An alux.” Said Ixchel. There was no fear in her voice.
     Diego heard the sounds of movement in the chamber with them, for the first time since they entered the second chamber he saw something, a pair of eyes that glittered like fire.
     “We are close now.” Said Ixchel. She led Diego into new chamber and he saw the glow of light at the far end. They followed it into a giant, dome shaped cavern, where moonlight streamed down from holes in the rock ceiling, onto crystalline waters in an underground lake. Laughing, Ixchel ran, kicking off her hempen sandals as she went. She leapt into the water with a splash that sent shoals of pale fish scattering in all directions.
     The beauty of the lake was ethereal. The water was so clear that Diego could see small crabs crawling on the rocks many meters below as they sifted the water for the microscopic plankton.
     “Jump!” Said Ixchel. Diego could see her brown nipples pushing against the fabric of her white dress as it floated about her. Taking off his boots and outer garments, he eased himself into the water. Ixchel swam to a pile of rocks in the very center of the lake that had fallen from the ceiling in a time before man. She stood on her tiptoes in order to poke her face out of the water. The moonbeams that fell through the hole in the ceiling made her skin and huipil glow. She laughed as Diego paddled out to her awkwardly. He put his arms around her, feeling her skin, tight against the coolness of the water. He looked down on her and she looked up towards him, her large green eyes were heavy lidded, and her mouth partially opened. He pulled her towards him in a firm embrace, his mouth finding hers.
     They stood, in the center of sphere half air and half water illuminated by magic rays of moonlight. The drops that fell from the edges of the cavern into the waters below and the nocturnal dance of the cave creatures, was a song of life and death in this place where the two met in the unending circle of all being.
     Diego felt as though he had never really been alive before this moment. He chased Ixchel, playing the games of love. She was a much stronger swimmer than he, who paddled dog-like, scaring fish below. Ixchel swam to the sheer rock shore, where she waited, laughing. Diego arrived, winded, and crawled on his hands and knees until he reached her. They kissed and she moved back slowly pulling at him gently until he lay on top of her. She arched her back, pulling the hem of her dress above her hips and thighs. Then she began searching about the folds of Diego’s undergarments. Somewhere, deep in Diego’s mind, a warning was being shouted. But he had chosen this when he first suggested the meeting. He would not abandon it now.
     Ixchel found what she sought, and pulled Diego inside of her. For the first time in his life, Diego felt what it was to be with a woman. In that moment, he understood life and his purpose in it. Then came the explosion of pleasure, which drove all other thoughts from the mind. Leaving only white numbness. It was like being born. He rolled off and lay next to Ixchel, who put her head on his chest, as they both looked up through the holes in the ceiling above them at the patches of sky where a billion stars twinkled and the glowing white strip of the milky way wended it’s way across the sky. In that moment Diego had found his divinity, but it was gone almost as suddenly as it came.
     The vacuum of Diego’s numbness filled with dread. The cave grew darker. The crawling and scraping of the nocturnal creatures echoed against the wet walls of the cave frightfully. It sounded as though they were crawling inside of Diego’s very ears. What was once mysterious and beautiful now seemed dark and sinister. He was cold.
     What have I done? I will be stripped of the priesthood. This witch tricked me. She has surely bewitched me with her charms and led me to this sin. In his heart, he knew it was a lie. However, there was one thing that was abundantly clear to him.
     No one can ever find out about this.
      Ixchel, deaf to the turmoil that raged inside of her lover, sighed daintily and stretched allowing her arm to fall on Diego’s chest. She began to caress him with the tips of her fingernails.
     “I will bear you a strong child.” She said, happily.
     “What?”
     “The moon is at its fullest, and we lie beneath the fertile ceiba, next to the cenote, which gives life from death. There is no doubt. Your seed will grow to a strong child within me.”
     “No… You can’t! I would lose everything! Everything!”
     Diego leapt up and began pacing. Ixchel stood as well. Not understanding, she placed a hand of comfort on his shoulder. Diego whipped around to face her, jerking away from her touch. He struck Ixchel with an open hand, sending her to the ground.
     “Witch! Your perverted lust has lead me to this damnation!”
     Pain, confusion, and wrath contorted Ixchel’s face. With the speed of a viper, she raked her nails across Diego’s face, tearing five bloody trails into his skin. She stared, defiantly. Bringing a hand to his face, Diego saw blood on his fingers. He made a fist and stepped forward striking Ixchel in the mouth. Her teeth broke against the impact of his blow and her head snapped to the side, pinching a nerve in her neck. She blacked out, fell to the ground, and rolled into the water.
     Diego watched her body floating face down in the water as a crimson halo formed around her head.
     “What have I done?” He waded into the water and pulled her back, laying her tenderly on the ground. She was breathing. Scooping her up like a child, he fled the cave as though in so doing he could escape from all that had transpired.
     Going back into the dark antechamber, he took the first right turn, feeling the wet rock and clay of the walls. On he went left, straight across the next room to the shelf they had lowered themselves, but he could not seem to feel the hole. Suddenly, he was not so certain that he had come to the correct chamber. Had they gone left or right before? He made his way backwards, and this time went the other direction in the lake’s antechamber. Ixchel was becoming quite heavy. Doubting himself again he tried to go back, but found himself in a different room entirely. Where are we? He lay Ixchel down on the ground, and began to sob.
     “I’ve ruined us. We’ll go mad in this infernal darkness and be eaten alive by monsters. “
          “Oh God—“
     “—I can hear them—”
     A clawing, scraping, scratching, and scrabbling sound was approaching. Diego backed away, pulling Ixchel after him. Yellow eyes pierced the dark, one, then two pairs, three, four and five. They peered at him through the darkness, chattering, in a low and guttural language. It wasn’t Mayan, at least not a dialect that Diego had heard before, but it had the same glottal popping sound.
     They moved closer, chattering hesitantly. Diego held Ixchel closely. Two rushed forward and grabbed her legs.
     “No! I won’t let you take her! You can’t have her!” He yelled out. They pulled harder, wrenching her from his grasp.
     “No!” Diego made for the glowing eyes, flailing his fists and lashing out with his legs. His shin connected with one, the rest encircled him.
      “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Diego shouted the words as a battle cry. His voice echoed and danced down infinite chambers hidden in the darkness.
     “Cooomfort me” “Coomfort me” “Eeeevil, coooomfort me”The guttural voices of the cave men mimicked his speech.
     “Aaaah!” Diego, rushed forward to attack. Then they were all on him. Five pairs of small hands with sharp nails raked him, and five sets of sharp, animal teeth tore at his skin. They had him held down each one sitting on a limb, with the last one perched atop his chest. Small fingers closed in on his throat. With one last burst of strength, Diego whipped free his right hand. Grabbing a rock from the ground, he drove it with all his might against the head of the creature that sat on his chest. He felt its ovular skull give way with the force of his blow. Shrieking and wailing, the four other creatures fled as he chased after them, swinging his weapon blindly.
     “Ixchel? Ixchel! Where are you?!? Feeling in the darkness, Diego’s hands came over the lifeless corpse of the alux, it was wet with cave damp and blood. It felt hairy and obscene to his touch. He quickly withdrew his hand. Then, he felt the familiar texture of Ixchel’s huipil. He scooped her up and began moving again in the cave, blindly. Trying distance himself from the monsters.
      In the pitch dark of the underworld, time loses meaning. Men have survived by sucking moisture from the rocks, and eating unknown things that crawl in the darkness, too slow to escape their blind, blundering hands. But even a few hours in the black will erode at your sanity.
     The air around you is thick, it presses on you. You long for a gentle breeze, the slightest whisper of fresh air but each breath is dank and humid. Rarely will you find yourself in an area large enough to stand up. Most your journey is spent writhing in holes like an insect. Standing still, the only sound that you hear will be that of dripping water. The droplets filter down, condensing on the ceiling, as they follow the millennial path of the droplets that came before them, building particle by particle the stalactites that they fall from.
     Then your ears become more sensitive. You hear falling rocks in distant chambers. You wonder, what could cause such a clamor? Soon, your ears become so attuned that you hear all eight steps of the cave spider as it traces its path across the rock. You hear the worm’s mouths working, as they chew the dirt. Then, most maddening of all, you hear footfalls.
      Diego wandered for an eternity in the blackness, carrying Ixchel. Then he tasted something as sweet as a raindrop tastes to a man lost at sea: fresh air. The invisible air current jarred him from his nightmarish trance, reviving his cognition. He sniffed and snuffled like a dog, trying to find it again. When he did, he stood perfectly still, allowing the stream of air to bathe him. He could smell each individual flower in that breeze. He took a step, trying to follow it. As soon as he moved, he lost it. In panic, he moved back to his previous position where he felt the familiar draft. Taking another slow step in another direction, he found himself still in the airstream. Thus, by inches, he chased the source.
     He arrived at an earthen ceiling. Laying Ixchel down, he began to claw the dirt. It was cold to touch. His hands began to ache and blood seeped out from under his fingernails as he scratched. Then, blinding light burst through the hole he had made. Diego closed his eyes, pained, and then cried out in delight. He clawed even more furiously at the earth until he had created a hole large enough to squeeze through. He took Ixchel’s limp form, and with some difficulty, forced it through, pulling himself up afterwards. He lay down next to Ixchel, in the blessed light of dawn, breathing greedily, laughing and crying.
     The clopping of horse hooves cut short his exultation. He dragged Ixchel into the nearby brush, and crouched down. A group of soldiers came to the place where he was hidden. Their captain motioned to stop. He peered into the bushes and brambles, searching.
     Finally, he spoke. “One who hides from the authorities must be a criminal. I see your footprints, and the broken branches where you have hidden yourself. I don’t much care for hide and seek, so I will give you to the count of five before I start looking with the tip of my sword. One… Two… Three…”
     Diego emerged from the bushes, panting. The captain of the guard stared for at the Bishop in shock.
     “Father de Landa, how did you come to be in the middle of the woods, half naked, and covered with mud and blood. You aren’t a vampire are you?” He joked, as the shock wore off.
     Diego did not speak. The truth was inadmissible, and he could imagine no lie that could possibly account for the bizarreness of the situation. Then, a soft moaning drifted through the brush.
     The captain’s eyes snapped over toward the sound. Without speaking, he dismounted, pushing Diego aside. He withdrew Ixchel from the scrub and brambles a few moments later, her dress was torn, exposing her breast. She was covered with cuts and scrapes, and her mouth was bloodied from where Diego struck her but she was conscious and able to walk with some help. Gently, the captain put his jacket around her, to hide her nakedness.
     “I’m afraid that I must insist upon your explanation Father. What happened to this maiden?” Said the captain.
     “I am no maiden!” Said Ixchel abruptly. She stood proudly, though her body was as torn and stained as her huipil.
     “In the cave, Diego de Landa lay with me. When I told him that I carry his child he flew into a rage, beating me until I lost sight. I do not know how he managed to find his way back, but I lament that the death god did not spare me the shame of return by taking me into his service. I can only assume I am thus punished for bringing such a wicked man into a holy place.”
     “What say you Father?” Asked the captain of the guard.
     Diego breathed in deeply, summoning all the pride and commanding tone that he could. He was painfully conscious of how hollow his voice sounded, but he gained momentum as he spoke. By the end, he spoke with the fiery passion of a sermon. Ixchel, hissed at every lie that drifted past his lips.
     "I say that by virtue of my appointment as the Bishop of Yucatan my word is the word of the Holy See. The vengeful hand of God Himself will answer any infamy spoken towards his servant. The witch lies. Last night she poisoned me with a potion that rendered me unable to control my body. In this state she lead me to a cave where she meant to sacrifice me to the Devil. By the grace of the Lord, the potion weakened enough that I was able to cry out to God. Upon speaking his name, I regained control of my body. I struck the witch, causing her to sleep. There, in the darkness of the cave, it was only by the light of God that I was able to find my way out.”
     By the end of his speech, Diego himself almost believed the lie. Only the captain of the guard seemed not to believe his tale.
    “Your word is law Father” He spat. “We are bound as soldiers of the Crown to act upon it I implore you to recognize the significance of the accusation you are making. The penalty for witchcraft is crucifixion. Are you certain of your story?”
     Diego looked hard into the eyes of the captain, speaking his words emphatically. “The girl is a witch. Crucify her.”
     The captain of the guard grimaced and addressed his men. “Seize the girl. Pin her to the ceiba, and break her legs.
     Ixchel ran. She said a prayer to the deer god to lend her his swiftness, but horses are faster than deer. In a practiced, pincer movement, three mounted soldiers cut off her path. Trapped, she turned back the way she had came, and found herself surrounded. They dragged her, screaming, to the base of the ceiba tree. There, they lifted her and pinned her to the tree trunk so that she was suspended by her wrists.
     The echoes of Ixchel’s screams remained in the dreams of Diego de Landa until his deathbed

***.

     He was dreaming of wet earth, blood, and screams again when the doctor’s voice awakened him.
     “I’m afraid he hasn’t much longer.” The doctor said. Though his eyes were closed, and his breathing slow, Diego was awake. The voice of his doctor receded into the distance as he and his companion walked away. Diego didn’t need a doctor to know that he was dying. He felt it in his bones. But he was not afraid. He knew that he went now to his Father. His entire life was dedicated to the service of God. He had endured pestilence, famine, drought, and even witchcraft.

–His mouth twitched—

     Only a bit more to endure and his mortal cage would expire, setting the spirit free. He closed his eyes, hoping to dream of paradise and never awake. The smell of white flowers drifted over him. He kept his eyes closed, breathing the aroma. The scent was invigorating. In fact, he suddenly felt nothing so much as the desire to get up from bed and open the curtains. He sprang up, and danced across the room throwing wide the thick, hempen curtains. The night song of the insects was buoyed on a gentle breeze.
     “Do you find the night air agreeable?” Said a voice behind him.
     It was Ixchel, looking lovelier than ever, her eyes sparkling, and dark locks tumbling over her brown shoulders.
     “Yes My Child, it is quite agreeable.” Sighed Diego.
     “Will you walk with me, Father?” She said.
     “I would like nothing more than to leave this room that stinks of staleness and death.” Admitted Diego.
     “Then take my hand.” Ixchel smiled.
     Diego was puzzled, for he did not remember Ixchel’s teeth being filed to points., but so lovely was her appearance and so sweet the fragrance that drifted about her, that even the vulgar self-mutilations of the Mayans could not affect his cheery disposition.
     He followed her through the town and into the jungle. They walked for a long time without speaking. He was overcome by the wonder of walking again, breathing in the cool air, and listening to the murmurs of the night animals.
     Finally, they reached a clearing with a huge ceiba. It was familiar to Diego, but he could not remember where he had seen it before. Ixchel turned and smiled coquettishly. She stepped towards him, and took his hands, placing them upon her breast and her hip. Diego squeezed the supple flesh. He pulled her close, and kissed her, remembering what he had felt thirty years before, in the glittering beauty of the underground cave. It brought him profound sadness.
     “I was so wrong. I was so, so wrong. My whole life— wasted.” He said, mournfully. Ixchel continued kissing his neck, working her way downward. A horrible stench was on the wind that supplanted the scent of white flowers with the reek of bones. She began to bite him, hard, her filed teeth breaking into his skin.
     “Ah! That’s too hard Ixchel, stop!” Fray Diego tried to pull away, but Ixchel grabbed at him, digging her nails into his skin.”
   With all of his might, Diego forced her head upwards, away from his chest. Her mouth dripped blood; her eyes were wild and leering. Her pointed teeth gnashed like an animal’s. With inhuman strength she pinned his hands to his sides, grinding her pelvis excitedly against his groin as she lowered her jaws to his chest.
     When Ixchel pressed her fingernails into his sternum he began to scream as she divided bone and tissue. With a crack louder even than his screaming, his ribcage rent open exposing his organs. The screams ceased, but Diego’s mouth remained open, his eyes wide with terror, as Ixchel pulled his heart from his chest and began eating it slowly, his blood dripping down her chin onto her round breasts as she continued to grind her pelvis excitedly against him.
     He was found dead in the sheets the next day, his face a petrified mask of horror.